Friday, August 31, 1984

Keats: An Alan Parsons Project Offshoot

Keats

Keats


Released: August 1984 ?


Recorded: December 1983 to March 1984


Charted: --


Peak: --


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: progressive rock lite


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Heaven Knows (Bardens) [3:56]
  2. Tragedy (Blunstone, Elliott) [5:01]
  3. Fight to Win (Bardens) [4:10]
  4. Walking on Ice (Paton) [3:31]
  5. How Can You Walk Away (Paton) [3:41]
  6. Turn Your Heart Around (Bardens) [3:44] (1984, --)
  7. Avalanche (Bardens) [4:06]
  8. Give It Up (Bairnson) [4:45]
  9. Ask No Questions (Bairnson) [3:25]
  10. Night Full of Questions (Blunstone, Elliott) [3:57]
  11. Hollywood Heart (Bairnson) [3:43]


Total Running Time: 44:00


The Players:

  • Colin Blunstone (vocals)
  • Ian Bairnson (guitar)
  • Pete Bardens (keyboards)
  • David Paton (bass, backing vocals)
  • Stuart Elliott (drums, percussion)
  • Stuart Cottle (saxophone, synthesizers, additional keyboard parts)

Rating:

3.107 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)

About the Album:

“If Toto was considered a super-star band consisting of the finest session musicians available in the US studio scene, this description applied for Keats in England as well. Consequently, the self-titled album is a milestone of contemporary rock.” RYM Members Colin Blunstone, Ian Bairnson, David Paton, and Stuart Elliott all worked together in the Alan Parsons Project, but had respectable resumes even before that. Blunstone had worked with the Zombies and as a solo artist. Bairnson and Paton had both worked with the group Pilot, best known for the song “Magic.” Elliott had been with Cockney Rebel. Pete Bardens, who’d worked with Them and Camel, rounded out the group.

Although neither Alan Parsons nor Eric Woolfson had a hand in any of the writing as they did with all the Alan Parsons Project albums, they were still both involved. Parsons lent his hand as producer and, according to RateYourMusic.com, it was Woolfson who conceived the Keats project. It was his intent “to create a career for the core of the band and give them the opportunity to control their own musical output.” RYM He reportedly named the group after his favorite restaurant. GR

Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out that way. Keats didn’t go anywhere despite how closely the sound matched that of Alan Parsons Project albums. Of course, from a timing standpoint, the Alan Parsons Project’s fortunes were waning. While previous album Ammonia Avenue had gone gold and produced a top-20 hit (“Don’t Answer Me”), it would mark the last time the group would achieve gold status or a top-40 hit.

Still, this is “top-notch AOR throughout” GR even if “listeners often considered the Keats music as being too technical – lacking emotion.” RYM “The songs are slicker than the more musically and lyrically adventurous Alan Parsons Project albums. That’s saying something considering the highly polished sonic glaze Parsons gave his own work.” AMG

All Music Guide called the opening song Heaven Knows one of the album’s highlights. AMG That song and Avalance are reminiscent of Toto with the former marked by saxophone playing from Richard Cottle. “Elsewhere there are even hints of late-1980s Magnum (Fight to Win),” GR another song noted by All Music Guide as a highlight. AMG

It’s Blunstone who handles most of the vocals here. His most notable vocal with the Alan Parsons Project was on the song “Old and Wise” from their 1982 album Eye in the Sky. However, Paton takes the lead on Walking on Ice, a song he composed, and Ask No Questions, a song written by Bairnson. GR The latter “has a definite Doobies-feel in the chorus.” GR

The album’s sole single, Turn Your Heart Around, is “amongst the standouts.” GR It was written by Bardens and also turned up on Blunstone’s solo album On the Air Tonight.

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First posted 9/24/2021.

Monday, August 20, 1984

The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” released for the first time

How Soon Is Now?

The Smiths

Writer(s): Johnny Marr, Morrissey (see lyrics here)


Released: August 20, 1984


First Charted: February 9, 1985


Peak: 16 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 0.4 UK


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 21.0 video, 149.94 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This is “an odd song in The Smiths canon as it remains one of their most enduring, without being particularly representative of the band. Very much a Johnny marr song, its teaming, bubbling guitars and shimmering riff seethe with a masculinity and stridence that were rarely Smiths trademarks.” XFM

The record company wasn’t sure about that song and originally released it as the B-side of “William, It Was Really Nothing” in August 1984. However, the song got picked up by night-time British radio and became the most-requested track on request shows by DJs John Peel and others. WK It was then featured on the compilation Hatful of Hollow compilation in November. That month it was also released as a single in the United States and was accompanied by a video which the band had no involvement in making. Morrissey said he detested the video. The song failed to chart in the U.S. In January 1985, it was released as a single in the UK and a month later resurfaced again on the Meat Is Murder album. On its second go-round, the single reached #24 on the UK charts. The song had become a club favorite and it was expected to do better on the charts. However, it had probably been hurt by being released in multiple forms before finally being released as a single in its own right. WK As the band’s producer, John Porter, said, “the Smiths’ fans already had it.” WK In 1992, it was re-released and got to #16.

The song has connections to early ‘50s rock and roll. Johnny Marr recorded “How Soon Is Now?” with bandmates Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce during a jam session. Porter thought the basic riff needed something more, which led to an impromptu jam session of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right.” Marr worked in his chord progression for “How Soon Is Now?” (then known as “Swamp”), inspiring the song’s arrangement. WK Marr was also “inspired by Bo Diddley’s distinctive syncopated shuffle guitar style” WK and, in fact, the rhythm of “How Soon Is Now?” has been compared to Diddley’s “Mona.” WK

Morrissey wrote the lyrics about his crippling shyness. It became “an anthem for the alienated and socially isolated.” SF The title came from a question posed in one of Morrissey’s favorite books, Popcorn Venus, a feminist film study by Marjorie Rosen. SF


Resources and Related Links:

  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Page 384.


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 10/14/2021.

Saturday, August 4, 1984

Prince’s Purple Rain hit #1 in U.S. for first of 24 weeks

Purple Rain

Prince & the Revolution


Released: June 25, 1984


Peak: #124 US, #4 UK, #113 CN, #11 AU


Sales (in millions): 14.48 US, 0.6 UK, 26.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: R&B/pop


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Let’s Go Crazy (Prince) [4:39] (7/18/84, #12 US, #12 CB, #11 RB, #19 AR, #7 UK, #2 CN, #10 AU)
  2. Take Me with U (Prince) [3:54] (with Apollonia, 1/25/85, #25 US, #27 CB, #40 RB, #7 UK)
  3. The Beautiful Ones (Prince) [5:13]
  4. Computer Blue (Prince/John L. Nelson/Wendy & Lisa/Dr. Fink) [3:59]
  5. Darling Nikki (Prince) [4:14]
  6. When Doves Cry (Prince) [5:54] (5/16/84, #15 US, #14 CB, #18 RB, #31 AR, #4 UK, #13 CN, #11 AU)
  7. I Would Die 4 U (Prince) [2:49] (11/28/84, #8 US, #10 CB, #11 RB, #58 UK, #12 CN, #96 AU)
  8. Baby I’m a Star (Prince) [4:24]
  9. Purple Rain (Prince) [8:41] (9/21/84, #2 US, #12 CB, #4 RB, #18 AR, #6 UK, #3 CN, #41 AU)


Total Running Time: 43:51

Rating:

4.595 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Quotable: “A landmark that solidified Prince’s standing as the preeminent pop genius of his generation” – Pitchfork’s Carvell Wallace


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Prior to the Purple Rain movie and its soundtrack, Prince was known as “a multi-instrumentalist and prodigious musical upstart” PF who “famously stonewalled music press royalty…You were not to know who he was or where he was from. You were not to fully comprehend his race nor his gender.” PF Purple Rain thrust Prince into the limelight so that everyone knew he was. The movie told a “schmaltzy tale with Prince taking the role of The Kid, beset by parental woes and the inevitable girl trouble.” MF It “cracks open the shell of his reclusive sex alien persona to tell something of an origin story, one slightly more than loosely based on Prince’s real life.” PF

It was an unexpected hit; it cost only $7 million and made over $68 million. NME It ranks in the top ten of the Dave’s Music Database list Top 50 Music Movies and, despite its “cringeworthy acting,” BBC serves as “a big-screen showcase for Prince to perform these songs (some of them in tear-the-roof-off ‘live’ versions set in a Minneapolis club).” JE All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said it was designed “as the project that would make him a superstar, and, surprisingly, that is exactly what happened.” AMG “The film turned this diminutive Midwestern oddball into a pop-culture giant on par with Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson.” BB

Prince had experienced mainstream success before. With his previous album, 1999, Prince scored top ten hits with “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious.” However, Purple Rain became a juggernaut, landing four top ten hits and spending a whopping 6 months atop the album chart. It was big right out of the gate, debuting at #11 with sales of a million and a half. It hit #1 four weeks later, WK knocking Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. from the summit – and then being dethroned by that same album 24 weeks later.

Erlewine said this was “more focused and ambitious than any of his previous records.” AMG The album “manages to deftly thread the needle between a dazzling array of genres: disaffected synth pop, tongue-wagging hair metal, dark R&B, and pleading soul.” PF Prince demonstrates his “ability to fashion the most avant garde pop imaginable while still making you want to shake your booty.” BBC “He plays rock better than rock musicians, composes better than jazz guys, and performs better than everyone, all without ever abandoning his roots as a funk man.” PF

“Let’s Go Crazy”

“In arguably the best intro in pop history, Prince spends the first 40 seconds of this smash single playing gospel preacher, telling us to forget about the afterworld and start enjoying this one.” BB This song “thematically picks up where the titular title track from 1999 leves off, namely: ‘We’re all going to die one way or another, so let’s rock while we’re here.’” PF On the “major metallic-funk hit” GS Prince “goes for a monstrous synth-and-guitar sonic attack turning the song into a hair-metal and synth-pop classic at once.” GS Prince rips “the kind of ostentatiously speedy Van Halen-esque guitar work that would become the audio version of the generation’s early MTV aesthetic.” PF

“Take Me with U”

This is the closest thing the album has to a dud, PF but Prince’s work, like Stevie Wonder, “brims with so many compelling musical ideas that they can be found hidden in even the weakest of tracks.” PF “After some frenzied drum rolls and a paranoid keyboard riff, Prince u-turns into a sweet psych-rock duet with Apollonia, his costar in the film. It’s a song about love conquering all, and the frilly orchestral synth sounds add to the neo-‘60s vibe.” BB This song was originally intended for the Apollonia 6 album. Reportedly, Prince played all the instruments on the song except for the string overdubs. WK

“The Beautiful Ones”

While most of the Purple Rain album was recorded as a band, this song, “Darling Nikki,” and “When Doves Cry” are solo Prince recordings. WK This song presents “Prince the serpentine…at his most coiled, his falsetto vocals syrupy and tightly wound until they explode into a wounded animal scream.” PF “Despite those heavy synths and hollow Linn drums—go-to electronic effects on early Prince albums – ‘The Beautiful Ones’ doesn’t play like some bad ‘80s New Wave song. This lush ballad begins with Prince asking, ‘Is it him, or is it me?’ and over the next five minutes, he gives his would-be lover an increasingly intense sales pitch. By the end, he’s down on his knees, shredding that guitar of his. Let’s see the other guy beat that.” BB

“Computer Blue”

Originally written as a 14 minute opus, this song had to be edited down to make room for “Take Me with U.” WKThe opening dialogue between Revolution band members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman “may either be about an impending sex act or an impending cup of tea.” PF “The ensuing song is a club jam about the common ’80s theme of existential technological alienation.” PF It incorporates “the unlisted ‘Father’s Song’ that showcases Prince’s talent for crafting a surprisingly emotional narrative out of a chord progression and a guitar solo (foreshadowing, perhaps?) before devolving into feedback, wordless screaming, and the intro to the crowning achievement of the first half.” PF

“Darling Nikki”

“The only thing rawer than the guitars are the lyrics, all about a porn-loving gal not shy about pleasuring herself in hotel lobbies.” BB This is “a thumping, loping, grinding fuck song about getting dirty with and getting played by the timeless femme fatale.” PF The lyrics made it a target of the Parents Music Resource Center, spearheaded by Tipper Gore. The group pushed for parental advisory labels on albums with what they deemed questionable content. WK

“Salaciousness aside, ‘Darling Nikki’ is a stunning piece of music.” BB The “quivering undulating coda, impossibly finds the musical link between burlesque backing bands and thrash metal double bass pedal rumbles.” PF The distorted vocals at the end of the song are the result of recording an extra verse during a rain storm and then playing them backwards. NME

“When Doves Cry”

The album’s masterpiece was “When Doves Cry,” the top-selling single of 1984 BB and the biggest song of Prince’s career. The single preceded the album by a month and caught everyone off-guard with its unusual bass-free sound. Critic Dave Marsh called it “the most influential single record of the eighties.” MA The song is featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

The confessional song features Prince’s “most pointedly personal lyrics yet” PF as he “fears he’s becoming like his emotionally unavailable parents:” BB “Maybe I’m just like my father/Too bold/Maybe you’re just like my mother/She’s never satisfied.” The “steadily unfolding melodic progressions…expertly capture the helpless confessional pleading of a man trying to figure out who he is and why it hurts so damn much.” PF

“I Would Die 4 U”

This “is a celebratory, if lyrically morose, jam distinguished by a vast swaths of new wave synth, deep bounce and an insistent high hat.” PF Lyrically, there is debate as to “whether this dance floor favorite is about the connection between god and man, as many fans suggest, or simply the spirit of devotion between two lovers.” BB

This song, “Baby I’m a Star,” and “Purple Rain” were recorded live at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983. Overdubs and edits were added later. The show was a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater and marked the first appearance of Wendy Melvoin as a guitarist in Prince’s band. WK

“Baby I’m a Star”

“As he wrote the Purple Rain album, Prince was already thinking about the movie, and he knew damn well he was about to break big. ‘Baby, I’m a Star’ is his early victory lap,” BB “serving notice that he’s greater than we could have ever imagined (turned out he was right) and that we need either get on board or get left.” PF “‘You might not know it now, but I are – I’m a star,’ Prince tells a global audience about to be rocked in ways it can’t begin to understand.” BB

“Purple Rain”

The title cut, an “epic and uncharacteristic arena jam” PF which Rolling Stone magazine said recalls Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel”, “finds Prince taking on the world of stadium rock and beating it at its own game.” MF A couple of sources have written that the title comes from a lyric in the America song “Ventura Highway.” WK As for the lyrics for “Purple Rain,” Prince initially reached out to Stevie Nicks, but she said, “I listened to it and I just got scared…I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’” NME He also reached out to Journey’s Jonathan Cain when he worried the song sounded too similar to “Faithfully.” Cain decided the songs only shared a few chords and gave his blessing. NME

The song was originally an 11-minute opus that was whittled down to the eight-minute version on the album and then edited further for the single version. A verse and chorus were cut because their focus on money didn’t fit. NME The song “is a baptism, a washing clean of sins and a chance at redemption, even if the words don’t make any sense, (and to most people they don’t) the vastness of the arrangement, the grandiosity of the soloing, the pleading of the vocals reaches you, makes you cry, makes you feel free.” PF It is “one of the most affecting blues soul laments ever recorded” BBC and a fitting “tour de force” BBC to cap off a “rare critical and commercial success that justifies every scrap of hyperbolic praise.” BB


Notes: A 2017 reissue of the album included a remastered version of the original album, a disc of previously unreleased material from the era, a disc of singles and B-sides, and a DVD of a live 1985 performance.

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 8/22/2021.